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  • ID: I104789
  • Name: Cotton MATHER
  • Given Name: Cotton
  • Surname: Mather
  • Sex: M
  • _UID: ECB0020ECD6C445DBFD42398F7164A487397
  • Change Date: 16 APR 2015
  • Note:
    copied 13 Oct 2008: http://wc.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=mikemather&i d=I6809
    The New England Mathers with a special emphasis on the many families who married into our family
    Entries: 102195 Updated: 2008-10-13 02:41:38 UTC (Mon) Contact: Michael
    Name: Cotton Mather Reverend Doctor
    Surname: Mather
    Given Name: Cotton
    Birth: 12 Feb 1662/1663 in Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts
    Christening: 15 Feb 1662/1663 Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts
    Death: 13 Feb 1727/1728 in Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts
    Burial: Feb 1727/1728 Copp's Hill Cem., Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts
    Note:
    !Speaking the name of Reverend Doctor Cotton Mather to any modern historian
    would bring the entire spectrum of reactions from witchhunter to the leading
    Puritan intellectual of his time. There isn't enough memory in this computer
    to share all that has been written of this man. Instead, I have simply chosen
    a few well-written pieces, and have listed much more that is written of this
    man and his time. Family members may digest each in their own way.

    "GRANDFATHER'S CHAIR"
    by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    "As Cotton Mather was a very distinguished man, Grandfather took some
    pains to give the children a lively conception of his character. Over the
    door of his library were painted these words, "Be Short"- as a warning to
    visitors that they must not do the world so much harm as to needlessly
    interupt this great man's wonderful labors. On entering the room you would
    probably behold it crowded, and piled, and heaped with books. They were
    huge, ponderous folios, and quatros, and little duodecimos, in English,
    Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldaic, and all other languages that either
    originated at the confusion of Babel or have since come into use. All these
    books, no doubt, were tossed about in confusion, thus forming a visible
    emblem of the manner in which their contents were crowded into Cotton
    Mather's brain. And in the middle of the room stood a table, on which,
    besides printed volumes, were strewn manuscript sermons, historical tracts,
    and political pamphlets, all written in such a queer, blind, crabbed,
    fantastical hand, that a writing-master would have gone raving mad at the
    sight of them. By this table stood Grandfather's chair, which seemed to
    have contracted an air of deep erudition, as if its cushion were stuffed
    with Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and other hard matters. In this chair, from one
    year's end to another, sat the prodigious bookworm, Cotton Mather, sometimes
    devouring a great book, and sometimes scribbling one as big. In Grandfather's
    younger days there used to be a wax figure of him in one of the Boston
    museums, representing a solemn, dark-visaged person, in a minister's black
    gown, and with a black-letter volume before him."

    Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem. His great-great-great-grandfather,
    John Hathorne, was a ship's captain and a magistrate in the Salem witchcraft
    trials. Nathaniel changed the spelling early in his literary career.

    The following is extracted from the volumes of "American
    Writers" with this portion contributed by Mr. Ormond Seavey.

    Cotton Mather
    1663-1728
    All his life, Cotton Mather worried over his importance in history. Was
    he only an insignificant provincial, ineffectually trying to prop a moribund
    Puritan tradition with a grab bag of pendantic tags? Or was he chosen to
    councel and lead his people into the final new day? His questions parallel
    our own. Is Mather any more than a literary grotesque, a credulous witch-
    burning embarrassment to American history and even to the history of
    American Puritanism? Or is he a neglected ancestor, the first to articulate
    some central problems of American culture? The question of whether he was
    central or irrelevant will not go away, in part because it was the problem
    he could never settle for himself.
    Mather wanted urgently to be more than just another New England minister.
    On one of his special days of fasting and humiliation in 1692, he pleaded
    characteristically with God "that Hee would accept of Service at my hands,
    and make a singular Use of mee, in the Awakening of my people." To be
    singularly used was always Mather's hope. He had been a child prodigy,
    entering Harvard College at the age of eleven. He came from the most
    distinguished family of intellectuals that had yet existed in America, and
    he wanted to be worthy of that heritage. He believed, in fact, that God had
    promised him a special role in his country's history and that an angel had been dispatched to him bearing that promise.
    Mather's hopes for prominence were in a sense fulfilled. From his early
    twenties until his death, he was pastor of the Second Church of Boston, the "Old
    North," perhaps the most prestigious pulpit in New England. From that vantage
    point he was able to embroil himself all his life in the politics of the colony;
    he led a small revolution, served as a spokesman for the next governor, and
    carried on a running battle for years with another governor. While still in
    his middle thirties he sent off to the press his "Magnalia Christi Americana"
    (1702), a vast history of New England.
    Over the course of his life Mather produced a staggering volume of work; his
    bibliography numbers 468 seperate items. In his own time he was acknowledged
    to be New England's representative in the world of letters, through his wide
    correspondence and his membership in the Royal Society. Both as the historian
    of the Puritans and as a vivid instance of Puritanism himself, he has never
    disappeared from the general consciousness; many people who have never read
    a word of his feel that they have a distinct sense of his personality.
    In the style and emotional tone of his writings and the extent of his public
    reputation, Cotton Mather has stood out from the other Puritan ministers of
    New England. Only Jonathan Edwards, two generations his junior, is comparably
    recognized as a representative Puritan. Edwards was the grandson of Eunice (Warham) (Mather) Stoddard, daughter of Reverend John Warham, widow of Cotton Mather's uncle Reverend Eleazer Mather, and wife of Reverend Solomon Stoddard. Among that group, some were arguably more tough-minded than he, or more impressive as theologians. His father, Reverend Doctor Increase Mather, no doubt exercised more influence. But succeeding generations have remembered the name of Cotton Mather when they have sought for an exemplar of American Puritanism.
    The cost of prominence has been ridicule and abuse, beginning in his
    own time. His writings on witchcraft provoked a malicious and influential
    personal attack that has been successful up to the present in making him look
    like a superstitious booby and an exploiter of mass hysteria. John Oldmixon,
    an English Grub Street historian who relied on Mather's work for his own
    account of America, sneered at the "Magnalia" as a medley of "Puns, Anagrams,
    Acrosticks, Miricles, Prodigies, Witches, Speeches, Epistles, and other
    Incumbrances."
    When Mather initiated inoculation for smallpox in 1721, the first
    significant medical innovation in America, he was rewarded with savage abuse
    in the newspaper of James Franklin. And James' sixteen-year-old brother
    Benjamin satirized Mather's often prolix defenses of benevolence by naming the
    author of his first periodical letters Silence Dogood. Mather accepted such
    abuse as an inevitable part of his calling. To be "dispised and rejected of
    men" was even evidence of a Christ-like vocation, and Mather was bolder than
    other Puritan ministers in seeking parallels between his own life and that of
    Jesus Christ. Abuse was to be suffered, not to be returned in kind. God would
    at last exalt his suffering servent.
    What distressed Mather far more than abuse, as his diary and letters
    indicate, was indifference. There could hardly be any spiritual significance
    in being ignored and unread. His predecessors in the Puritan clergy had
    enjoyed considerable political influence and even power; his own career saw
    that influence fade almost completely. Puritanism was in decline by the end
    of the seventeenth century, and by the time Mather died the old fighting
    faith had evolved into a staid and comfortable weekly routine.
    However much Mather may have denied the decline, he was too sensitive an
    observer not to have registered the change. After the mixed response to the
    "Magnalia," Mather found it impossible to find a publisher for his longest and
    most ambitious works. To his lasting humiliation, his longest work, a massive
    commentary on the Bible entitled the "Biblia Americana," went unpublished
    (as it remains to this day). His audience, his publishers, and his friends
    of importance in England had silently pronounced him and his style of writing
    dated and irrelevant. "I have no Expectation that any thing performed by my
    Mean Hand, should find any great Reception on your side of the Water," he
    wrote to an English correspondent in 1724. "Especially since the prodigious
    Depravation of Gust among you, which renders every thing unpalatable, but
    what shall have Qualities which I will never be reconcil'd unto." The style
    he adopted was in his eyes part of his New England identity. If such a style
    was despised, it seemed as if America was pronounced inconsequential.
    History has freed Mather from the irrelevance he feared. Not the victory of
    Puritanism but its defeat has thrust him into continuing grotesque prominence.
    For three centuries he has been an emblem of the narrow-minded, credulous,
    long-winded provincial minister. His contemporary adversaries have been
    succeeded by generations of commentators who have scored points against the
    Puritans by attacking him.
    Cotton Mather is the favorite author of that transplanted New Englander
    Ichabod Crane; long hours of reading Mather's accounts of witchcraft prepared
    Ichabod for his midnight ride through Sleepy Hollow. During the nineteenth
    century a succession of Unitarian minister historians exorcised the spector of
    their Puritan ancestory by denouncing Mather. William Carlos Williams includes
    Mather as one of the life-denying forces in his narrative of false directions,
    "In the American Grain." Katherine Anne Porter planned to write a biography of
    Mather, of which only a few sketches were published; in them he is depicted as
    a hideous prig.
    Even when the Puritans enjoyed a revival of scholarly reputation in the
    twentieth century, at the hands of Samuel Eliot Morison and Perry Miller,
    Cotton Mather was conspicuously excluded from favor. The scorn of a great
    historian endures; Perry Miller uses Mather to exemplify the intellectual and
    spiritual disintegration of New England. The most recent students of Mather's
    career have tried to rescue him from the slough of abuse, but he will not
    readily be restored. I suspect that so long as the country's Puritan heritage
    is an uncomfortable memory, Cotton Mather will have to be ritually excoriated.
    Cotton Mather's importance cannot be separated from the general impact of
    Puritanism on American writing and culture. Few would deny the lingering
    aftereffects of Puritan habits of mind in America-least of all those who have
    seen those influences as pernicious. But Mather's own experience was, rather,
    of Puritanism's waning force. He survived into a time terribly foreign to
    him, an era dominated by shrewd, quarrelsome, and secular men. In his last
    years he was all alone, the last man who had dared to believe in a glorious
    national destiny for America as the vanguard of Reformed Christianity.
    Mather's real strength came from his consciousness, never fully explored or
    acknowledged, that he was defending a dying tradition. It was that tradition
    that made him distinctive, since he could no longer enjoy that sense of
    membership in an ongoing movement that first-generation Puritans could feel.
    That consciousness brought on his extraordinary productivity. He was
    determined to restore the faith of the first days, even if that restoration
    could be no more than his imaginative act. "But whether New England may live
    any where else or no," he wrote in the introduction to the "Magnalia", "it
    must Live in our History!"
    Even Mather's early years would have provided much to perplex and disorient
    Him. The New England with which he identified so strongly was gradually
    growing and expanding. From the small beginnings at Plymouth and Massachusetts
    Bay, it had become four sturdy colonies that worshiped as independent
    congregations. But expansion had been mixed somehow with decline-a paradox
    for Mather, who saw God's hand in the expansion. Persistence in belief
    was somehow combined with vague symptoms of a disintegration of belief. As
    the church historian of New England he could not readily identify a single
    direction that the country was taking. Much of what he saw was discouraging.
    The Puritans who settled in America started off with a belief in their own
    historic centrality. They were to be a city upon a hill, looked on by all
    nations. Puritanism in those days was a mass movement possessed by a sense
    of its own irresistable historic mission. So strong was the desire in early
    Massachusetts to hear at last an awakening ministry that a limit had to be
    set for the number of sermons a person might attend in a week. Succeeding
    generations of Puritans would look back on the zeal of those founding fathers
    and compare it to the faith of the first-century Christian Church, the great
    age of saints and martyrs. Such a standard of piety, recovered now after
    1,500 years, could hardly fail to be a sign of Christ's glorious return and
    the biginning of the millennium. It does not need to be mentioned that such
    a belief was inherently vulnerable.
    Even at the time of Mather's birth, on February 12, 1663, Puritanism as an
    international movement was in retreat. Charles II had recently recovered the
    throne that his father had lost in the English Civil War. English Puritans,
    their revolution won but unfulfilled, turned away from their former public
    ambitions and resigned themselves to being the godly minority in a country
    that would not be a New Jerusalem.
    American Puritans clung to the earlier sense of historic mission, but their
    persistence was threatened in all directions. The first generation in New
    England had set high standards for admission to church membership in order
    to preserve the purity of each congregation. The standards were intimidating
    to the next generation; the so-called Half-Way Covenant of 1662 had to be
    introduced in order to baptize the children of those believers who could not
    report the requisite religious experiences.
    The political solidarity of the church-state in Massachusetts was based on
    the charter granted in 1629, which allowed the colony virtual self-government.
    That charter conflicted with the royal government's colonial policy. Although
    adroit stalling measures preserved the charter from revocation for a while,
    the Massachusetts Puritans were unlimately protected by little besides the
    government's relative indifference to them. They could remain in charge at
    the cost of seeming to be insignificant.
    There were more signs of deterioration during Mather's youth. To the north
    French Canada was expanding. A handful of Quakers appeared in Massachusetts
    preaching and disrupting Puritan religious services; banishment and later,
    executions dealt with those inroads, but the punishments stirred up
    controversy inside the colony and out. In 1675 King Philip's War broke out
    suddenly, an Indian war that left the frontier settlements in ruins and their
    population decimated; the Indians of New England would never again seem like
    a people reaching out for conversion. By the end of the reign of Charles II,
    when Mather was in his early twenties, the Massachusetts charter was revoked;
    the elected legislature was abolished, and under James II the colony was to
    be governed by the Anglican Sir Edmund Andros.
    In response to such discouraging developments, the Puritan clergy took to
    denouncing the country for its errors and spiritual inertia in sermons of
    which the standard formula was later to be called the jeremiad. The
    denunciations of the jeremiad have been taken as symptoms of growing
    secularization among the people and despair among the clergy. It seems
    more accurate to say that those reiterated warnings of God's wrath kindled
    against New England represent the most fervent assertion of the country's
    continued importance in history. The New Englanders were still God's chosen
    people, the jeremiads said; and those whom God loves, he chastens. Increase
    Mather, the father of Cotton Mather, was perhaps the most powerful and
    influential of these denouncers of the country.
    This was the situation in New England as Cotton Mather was growing up. He
    could not have viewed these confusing symptoms with detachment, nor could he
    have failed to try finding some meaning in them. His identity was tied to New
    England; unless God had a special purpose in mind for America he was nothing
    but a rediculous provincial. Even his name attached him to America. "Cotton"
    came from his grandfather, John Cotton, one of the leading first-generation
    ministers. His other grandfather, Richard Mather, hardly fell short of Cotton
    in prominence. The two had done much to formulate and defend the New England
    position on theology and church government. Richard Mather had married John
    Cotton's widow; Increase Mather, Richard's youngest son, had then married his
    stepsister, Maria Cotton. Cotton Mather's connection to the New England way
    was biological; he could not have discarded it without defying an especially
    potent set of ancestors.
    His father Increase had graduated in one of the earliest Harvard classes
    and soon after emigrated to Great Britain, attending Trinity College in Dublin.
    He preached in the last years of the Commonwealth. When the restoration of
    Charles II closed opportunities for him in England, he returned to America
    and soon succeeded to a prominent Boston pulpit. On the first important
    public occasion after his return, he disagreed with his father on the Half-
    Way Covenant, though he later changed his mind and joined in the consensus
    position.
    Increase Mather's years in England helped to give him special prestige in
    New England; when he returned to England in 1688 to represent Massachusetts
    in negotiations for a new charter, he could move familiarly in social
    circles that included Richard Baxter, the leading dissenting minister in
    England, and Robert Boyle, the scientist and theologian. From 1685 to 1701
    Increase Mather was the president of Harvard. He continued to serve as the
    teacher of the Second Church in Boston (the North Church) until his death
    in 1723 at the age of eighty-four.
    Cotton Mather spent his entire life in the shadow of his father, whom he
    survived by only five years. It was a shadow he welcomed. Prominent fathers
    can easily be a burden, an obstacle to the development of a distinct and
    viable identity. Cotton Mather, however, insisted on seeing his father
    as his greatest advantage. He became his father's associate at the Second
    Church and remained at that post until his death. In his own writing he
    would refer to himself as "Mr. Mather the younger."
    Few people would openly challenge Increase Mather; his power and presence
    were too imposing. Cotton Mather was more exposed to attack. The father
    could be described in the New England context as cosmopolitan. The son never
    traveled out of New England and scarcely ever left Boston. Increase Mather
    had differed from his own father. Cotton Mather consistently took his
    father's public positions, in keeping with the commandment to honor his
    parents. Of Cotton Mather's profoundest hopes recorded in his diary, many
    regard fame and prominence for Increase Mather. In later life he referred
    to his father as "Adoni Avi," meaning in Hebrew "Lord my Father." Only once
    is there any record of Cotton Mather's directly contradicting his father.
    When Increase, piqued by what he considered the colony's ingratitude,
    threatened to stay in England in 1690, his son wrote a stern reminder of
    his responsibilities to New England. To remain in England would be yielding
    to temptation, wrote the younger Mather, a desertion of his identity, his
    family, and his son. Throughout his life Cotton Mather looked to his father
    for approval. He did not seek to discover or establish an independent stance;
    real independence from his father and his father's beliefs would have been
    horrifying to him, because he believed his father to be a saved man. Instead
    he sought acceptance, a state inevitably beyond his control. For no matter
    how hard he tried or how dutiful he might appear, his acceptance could be
    withheld by his father or by God.
    This was the psychological situation of any Puritan. A strong analogy
    linked Mather's father, the rightly constituted powers that be, and God;
    scripture demanded obedience to the all. Other Puritans might rebel against
    the parental heads of governments by seeing rebellion as obedience to God.
    Cotton Mather found such a position difficult to sustain; even at those
    moments in his political life when he was acting as a register of authority,
    he insisted on voicing his resistance through the rhetoric of submission
    to superior political authority. His father was for him "our patriarch," and
    he could describe showing his work to his father as if he were submitting to
    a spiritual arbiter. That Mather's father was loving and fiercely protective
    made his attachment all the firmer. Cotton Mather came, in fact, to expect
    from others the sort of deference and sense of place that he rendered
    unhesitatingly himself. In those changing times that deference was not so
    readily granted.
    Much was expected of a child with such a father and such ancestry. Cotton
    Mather responded early to those expectations. His father's journal records
    the evidence of his early childhood piety. At the age of eleven he was ready
    to enter Harvard, demonstrating like other entering students a spoken command
    of Latin and a reading familiarity with Greek. He had already begun to study
    Hebrew. During his adolescence he was troubled by stuttering, to the point of
    thinking himself incapable of entering the ministry. Prayer and discipline
    brought his speech under control, so that he was able to preach his first
    sermon in 1680 at the age of seventeen.
    Around this time he began keeping a sort of diary that he called his
    "Reserved Memorials," a record primarily of his spiritual exercises through
    life and the evidences of divine attention to him. Later on, the diary also
    recorded Mather's occasional bitter reflections on the neglect and abuse
    he was receiving. It was also a sort of spiritual account book; Mather would
    record his prayers and then later note in the margins the time when they had
    been fulfilled.
    Mather never achieves the depth of self-analysis that one can see in the
    journals that Jonathan Edwards kept during his college years. Edwards'
    account of his sinfulness reveals a capacity for psychological penetration;
    Mather's recorded failings seem more the spontaneous outbursts of a complex
    and emotionally charged personality. "Was ever a man more tempted, than the
    miserable Mather!" he exclaims in his diary in 1703. (The wonder of it can be
    expressed only in a sentence artfully rich in m sounds.) "Should I tell, in
    how many Forms the Divel has assaulted me, and with what Subtilty and Energy,
    his Assaults have been carried on, it would strike my Friends with Horrour."
    A powerful narcissistic impulse betrays itself throughout the "Reserved
    Memorials," but they preserve a fuller record of his interior life than we
    have from any other Puritan of comparable intellectual powers. His focus is
    on his own inner state; there are fewer of the specific details of daily life
    that are so well preserved in the diary of his friend Judge Samuel Sewell.
    The diary is a record of attempts to see in all his worldly encounters the
    material for spiritual insight. He prepares a list of ejaculatory prayers
    that he is to utter to himself on seeing commonplace events. On seeing a man
    on horseback, for example, he is to pray, "Lord, thy Creatures do serve that
    man; help him to serve his Maker."
    For Mather there was no contradiction involved in anticipating or even
    programming pious perceptions. He was continually at work trying to set his
    inner life in order, not through the attainment of some ruling insight but
    through painstaking attention to a host of seperate duties. Benjamin Franklin
    later tried to achieve moral perfection by a comparable procedure, but he
    eventually gave up the effort and adjusted to a workable but imperfect
    character. Mather never stopped trying to make himself worthy.
    Mather's attention to his own inner state was no doubt a manifestation of
    deep self-absorption. As a celebrator and inviter of himself in his diary,
    he can make Walt Whitman (in his "Song of Myself") seem by comparison cool
    and dispassionate. But the demands of Puritan belief strongly seconded a
    person's impulse toward a preoccupation with self. Salvation was to be
    achieved by faith, a particular psychological condition, and not by works,
    the sum of one's overt behavior. The saved person had available a state
    called "grace," in which God entered into the heart to console and redeem
    it. To attain this state of grace it was necessary to be "reborn," a metaphor
    intended to suggest an utter change of personal identity. This rebirth was
    expected to be as important an event as one's original birth; it could be as
    terrible and wonderful as birth, but it was not easy to be sure that one had
    been reborn. If one returned completely to one's former life and mental
    habits, the experience assuredly had not been authentic.
    In his teens, after graduation from Harvard, Mather had experienced traumatic
    fears that he was only a "Refined Hypocrite," one who behaves well overtly
    and believes smugly in his own spiritual well-being. On the day of the last
    judgement the secret hearts of all would be laid bare; he would have to face
    the saved citizens of Boston as one of the elect or of the reprobate. Worse
    still, he thought, "How shall I be able to Look my own Father in the Face,
    at the Day of Judgement?" Cotton Mather turned to his father for spiritual
    counsel, and his father was strongly encouraging. Soon the son came to enjoy
    feelings of divine acceptance. Throughout his life Increase Mather himself
    lived with spiritual terrors and uncertainties that his son never experienced.
    Remaining unsure of his salvation, he wished for his son a better inner life
    than his own.
    The message that Cotton Mather preached, especially in his early years,
    was one of hope and comfort. He was only twenty when he was asked to
    become pastor of the Second Church; he could not pretend to the wisdom and
    accumulated authority of the senior ministers of Massachusetts. What qualified
    him in his mind to speak was a sense of his social ancestry and of his special
    gift of eloquence. He eagerly recorded in his diary his success in moving
    congregations to strong emotions, and there is every reason to believe his
    reports. His emphasis on hope was new in Boston. His father's characteristic
    note had been that of somber warning; in a sermon to Harvard undergraduates
    about the drowning of two students while ice skating he could see the deaths
    as an omen of the decline of the college, of the New England churches, and of
    New England itself. The son, by contrast, could find even the execution of a
    murderer an occasion to depict God's forgiveness.
    Though there were genuine tempermental differences between the two Mathers,
    their differences of emphasis derive also from a difference in their roles.
    New England churches, where possible, were supposed to have two ministers,
    a teacher and a pastor. The teacher was to speak of right doctrine; the
    pastor was to concern himself with the care of souls. This division of labor
    was another American Puritan tactic to keep in balance potentially divisive
    forces: a cold, intellectual rigor that might disregard psychological needs
    and a fervent evangelical spirit that might lack theological respectability.
    Increase Mather was the teacher at the Second Church; Cotton Mather was
    its pastor. Mather's diary records how eagerly he embraced his pastoral
    responsibilities, praying for particular people who were still unredeemed,
    tending to poor widows, organizing prayer groups and seminars. It was also
    more natural for the pastor to respond spontaneously in his sermons to
    immediate occasions-the death of a child (including his own, in several
    cases), the departure of troops in a campaign against Canada, an outbreak of
    smallpox. On one occasion Mather delivered extemporaneously a sermon on God's
    voice speaking through the thunder, to accompany a violent storm that broke
    out at meeting time. Mather took special pride in his ability at what New
    Englanders would call "improving" an occasion.
    By far the largest number of Cotton Mather's published works were sermons.
    Even his other works include or adapt sermons or sermonic rhetoric. To
    literary people the Puritan sermon has commonly seemed to bear no relation
    to the products of the literary imagination. It is even widely felt that the
    sermon is a form inherently dreary and deadening to both preacher and hearer.
    This attitude would perhaps have seemed curious to the Puritans, who found
    sermons profoundly appealing to the imagination. So emotionally satisfying
    were Puritan sermons in the mid-seventeenth century that they were able, in
    effect, to drive their competition, the London stage, out of business. For
    Puritans the sermon was a highly ambitious form of expression, since it was
    an attempt to convey the inexpressible presence of God. It was also the most
    valuable mode of public expression, because its aim was to produce salvation.
    The Puritans trimmed away other elements of the religious service so as to
    make the sermon stand out.
    By itself a sermon was a dramatic occasion. The minister confronted the
    congregation; together, both confronted God. Often there was more tangible
    drama on hand as well. Cotton Mather's first published sermon, "The Call of
    the Gospel" (1686), was addressed to a condemned murderer, James Morgan, who
    had repented and hoped that his change of heart might save him in his imminent
    future existence. Though not unusual in itself, this one instance will serve
    as an example of Mather at work in his natural form. Even here, when Mather
    is only twenty-three, a striking difference between the father and the son
    appears, as well as those special qualities that made Mather's sermons
    distinctive.
    Two other sermons were preached in the days before Morgan's execution, one
    of them by Increase Mather. Increase's sermon is a baleful underscoring of
    the heinous nature of the murder, which was done in a fit of passion with an
    iron spit. The sermon sets forth the condemned man as a horrid example of
    the consequences of drunkenness and neglect of sermons, sins that Morgan had
    confessed to committing. Although the prisoner had repented and ungently
    hoped before his death for divine forgiveness, Increase felt it necessary to
    emphasize in the preface to the published sermon that "Late Repentance is
    seldom true."
    Cotton Mather's sermon takes quite a different approach. His text, from
    Isaiah, is an invitation from God to look on him and be saved, and Cotton
    insists on applying the text to Morgan as well. "Yea, who among us all, at
    the reading of these glad Tidings unto us, can forbear joyning with the
    Rapturous shouts of Heaven, with that Angelical, and Evangelical Out-cry...
    Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, Good-will towards men?" The
    rhetoric implies a minister and a congregation unified by a common fervent
    belief. Where Increase's sermon is austere, precise, and analytical, Cotton's
    language tries to convey a note of rapture and collective solidarity that
    includes even the criminal in chains before him. To generate this sense of
    rapture, he employs metaphors that are deliberately paradoxical, forcing his
    hearers out of the conventional sense of things. "Verily," he says, "a man
    does no sooner look on Jesus Christ in a way of Believing, than a Sentence of
    Salvation is passed upon him, and all Promises yea, and all the Attributes
    of the Eternal Jehovah are engaged for the execution of it." Morgan's
    condemnation provides a metaphor for assured salvation.
    Both the Mathers had spoken to Morgan, who had specially requested
    that Cotton preach for him. Also at Morgan's request, Cotton accompanied the
    condemned man on his final walk to the gallows. Already elevated to the
    status of a symbolic figure in the drama of salvation, Morgan turned to the
    younger minister for his cue. "I beseech you Sir," Morgan said (as Mather
    recalled later), "speak to me. Do me all the good you can: my time grows very
    short: your discourse fits me for my Death more than any thing." As the two
    men walked along the Boston streets, they went through a final cram course
    in redemptive theology; Morgan acknowledged the justice of his sentence and
    repented of his earlier anger at being buried in a mean grave.
    The execution sermons (printed after the first edition with a transcript of
    Morgan's last conversation with Mather) sold well; Mather's sermon was the
    first fulfillment of his early promise and an indication of his readiness to
    involve himself actively in the spiritual lives of others. This trait has
    been commonly been described as meddlesomeness, but it seems likely that
    Morgan was grateful for it in his last minutes.
    Cotton Mather's sermons of his twenties were sufficiently in demand to
    be published. A common stance in those sermons was that of the redeemed
    youth speaking against unregenerate age. Nearly all the members of his
    congregation would have been older then he, and his status as a young prodigy
    was already making him vulnerable. It would have been hard for any young man
    to dominate a settled congregation by the sheer force of his personality,
    even if his authority had not seemed to depend in part on his father. And the
    young Mather was not disposed to intimidate; he wished, rather, to inspire.
    He could not pretend to a large experience of the world; he relied rather on
    a body of surrogate experience derived from his multifarious reading, in the
    Bible, the church fathers, and the classics. (Mather's library eventually
    came to be the largest in New England and perhaps all the colonies.)
    The rhetoric of Mather's sermons required a sense of common feeling with
    his congregation that would enable him to express their spiritual longings
    and to experience their spiritual trials. But the established and comfortable
    congregation of the North Church was two generations away from the founding
    of the colony. When Mather employed the first person plural with them, his
    usage did not reflect a mutual sense of kinship. He was urging a relationship
    that his hearers must have understood as a sermonic convention.
    Mather was grateful for the opportunity to preach to a congregation that
    was so large and had such traditions. By contrast Jonathan Edwards, who
    succeeded to the pulpit of a distinguished grandfather, always treated the
    Northampton church as his rightful portion and maintained that post with
    such independence of his congregation's good feelings that at last it
    removed him.
    We can have no sure way of guaging the effect of Mather's sermons on his
    audiences. Many were printed and some reprinted, so he must have been widely
    read. But the Puritan sermon had always called for more than pleased
    acceptance. It was a call to salvation. The first generation of ministers
    often counted sermons as the decisive spiritual stimulants in their lives.
    When young Samuel Sewell was joining the church and agonizing over the
    authenticity of his own sense of conversion, he studied old sermons as text-
    books in self-questioning. Cotton Mather's sermons seem not to have been
    studied in the same way. His popularity was clearly connected to certain
    literary qualities. It was his standing as a man of letters, as much as his
    piety and doctrinal correctness, that ensured his good reception in Boston.
    But local success was not enough. His "Reserved Memorials" indicate that
    he hoped for a wider field of action; he felt that he had received divine
    assurances that Europe would soon be moved by the Holy Spirit to cast off
    false belief and that he himself would be significantly involved in that
    spiritual transformation.
    Mather had no thought of leaving New England, so Europe was an audience
    that could be reached only by the written word. Even his earliest preserved
    letters indicate his interest in contemporary European history; when he
    writes about it, he displays an intense excitement with the scale of events
    and the rapidity of change. He feels no transoceanatic separation from
    the campaigns of William of Orange or the policies of Louis XIV. Later he
    even learned French and Spanish so as to write treatises in those languages
    urging conversion. England was the audience he addressed most directly in his
    early years, after his own New England. The disparity in character between
    his two audiences was a problem he could never resolve and, I think, never
    fully under- stood. Mather's pastoral impulses drew him into the politics
    of New England beginning in the late 1680's. From the start New England had
    proudly called itself a theocracy, and the minister's duty was to advise the
    temporal authorities about the Lord's will. After the Massachusetts charter
    was revoked and the arbitrary government of Sir Edmund Andros was imposed by
    James II in 1686, Increase Mather was sent to London to plead for a
    restoration of the charter.
    Cotton Mather represented his father's position during the three years that
    Increase was in England. When the news of the Glorious Revolution arrived in
    Boston, the citizens used the opportunity to overthrow the government and
    imprison Andros. Cotton Mather was involved in the insurrection and wrote a
    defense of it, "A Declaration of Gentlemen and Merchants and Inhabitants of
    Boston, and the Country Adjacent," that was published immediately (on April
    18, 1689). That brief document links the overthrow of Andros (and implicitly
    of James II, his master) with the overthrow of Catholicism. In other respects
    it is an early appearance of the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence.
    At this moment, when he was twenty-six, Cotton Mather had the greatest public
    influence that he would ever attain. He had engineered a revolution, albiet
    tiny, and defended it to the world.
    His father found it impossible to win back the old charter from King William,
    whose military campaigns on the Continent delayed the decision for some time.
    The best deal that Increase Mather was able to get included a royal governor
    and an elected colonial legislature; the king would let the elder Mather
    nominate the governor. Back in Massachusetts, Increase was widely criticized
    for not getting back the old charter. In defense of his father Cotton wrote
    and circulated in manuscript a set of four "Political Fables." In each of
    them Increase is represented by some flying, exalted character that is beyond
    the range of the other figures, including Cotton himself. The opponents of
    the Mathers and the new charter are represented as contentious and ungrateful
    animals. In tone the fables are debonair and good-humored; they are more an
    attempt to defuse the antagonism than to counterattack. By describing the
    confrontation as a quarrel of animals, Mather lifts the issue out of the
    context of moral error, where satire or denunciation would be called for.
    His aim is not to ridicule his opponents but to cajole them into agreeing.
    But the new charter remained widely unpopular. When Mather's handpicked
    governor, Sir William Phips, arrived, a body of disgruntled opposition was
    already mustered. Phips was a Massachusetts man who grew up a poor boy in
    Maine and made his fortune by recovering sunken treasure in the Caribbean.
    In 1690 he had joined the Mather's church.
    Cotton Mather eagerly took on the task of representing Phip's position. His
    attachment to Phips reveals his crucial weakness as a political writer. He
    had no genuinely independent position; he was a apologist, not an advocate.
    The role of apologist forced him into asserting that the new charter was even
    preferable to the old from the perspective of the people. He felt he had to
    defend Phips at any cost, even though the bluff former sea captain showed
    himself to be ill-tempered, impprudent, and incompetent as a commander in a
    disastrous military expedition against Quebec. Even after Phip's governorship
    broke down, Mather began a biography of him, an urgent defense of the governor
    as New England's representative. Phips was recalled to London and died there.
    Mather brought out the biography anonymously in 1697, though his hand in it
    was inescapable.
    One function of the "Life of Phips" was to defend the Mather's position.
    The previous seven years had brought the new charter, the witchcraft trials,
    the ill-fated expedition against Quebec; they were not easy years to applaud.
    It seemed natural to Mather to use biography as his means. The wisdom of the
    Mathers' policies would be vindicated by their intimate connection with the
    life of a redeemed and public-spirited man. The genre of the Protestant
    saint's life dictated a glorious ending won through difficulties; difficulties
    could thereby seem a portent of the happy end. Unfortunately, Phips himself
    was not really plausible as a saint, and the Mather policies still looked
    vulnerable. Cotton Mather's political stances were inconsistent, and not
    simply because he made considered adjustments to new circumstances. He tried
    both to defend his father's position and to seem to speak for the consensus
    position of New England as a whole.
    Mather was really tempermentally unsuited to cope successfully with the
    political life of Massachusetts in his times. His special virtues as a
    writer brought on that unsuitability. His eye was too fixed on an ideal
    vision of New England, a mythic version of its history, for him to respond
    appropriately to the fractional differences then current. As a writer he
    faced a dilemma. His ultimate concern was with history, not local but
    universal; he wrestled, as his ancestors had, with the question of how
    New England fit into the cryptic plans in the Bible for redemption of the
    world. In the course of his life Mather became increasingly preoccupied
    by the millennium, the grand conclusion to history. Yet his belief in the
    existence of such a grand preordained scheme obliged him to examine closely
    the symptoms that might suggest God's intentions. He could be most sure of
    himself in dealing with an event like the Andros insurrection, an occasion
    in which dramatic actions were to be taken with some awareness of larger
    meanings. But in the petty politics of Massachusetts under the new charter,
    he could find no sense of proportion. He was not inclined to dismiss an event
    as trivial. Instead, since he knew that God communicates continually with
    his people, he seized on the trivial as evidence of God's will.
    Mather's attempts at anonymity in the "Life of Phips" suggest another
    problem. He was like a man who believes that his voice is too loud but can-
    not make it softer. His early problems with stuttering must have taught
    him the importance of speaking out clearly. His experience and his culture
    would not have prepared him for anonimity or the concealment of identity;
    how could one conceal being a Mather? Humility was a crucial spiritual
    virtue that might seem counter to self-display, but humility could also
    entail the public confession of one's own inadequacies and imperfections.
    Mather's political involvements in the late 1680's and 1690's left him
    feeling exposed inescapably the object of public attention. He could not
    conceal his own style, nor could he pretend to be someone else. And from
    Saint Augustine in particular, whom he quotes throughout his writings, he
    would have learned the dangers to one's soul of pretending to be another
    person. Yet concealment of identity was a prevailing literary strategy in
    his times. The English Augustan writers were perfecting a prose style
    that brought out ironies and nuances and avoided insistent and unqualified
    statement. Mather at times tried to conceal his own hand or to curtail his
    use of the first person. When he began his autobiography, which is entitled
    "Paterna," he resolved not to say who he was. The omission was awkward,
    because it prevented him from referring to any of his own writings and
    because the manuscript was specifically meant to be read by his own son and
    was not explicitly intended for publication. (It was finally published in
    1976.) It was far more natural for Mather to proclaim his own authorship
    boldly, as he did in the general introduction to the "Magnalia Christi
    Americana." He describes there various strategies of anonymity or concealment
    that he might have employed. "Whereas now I freely confess, 'tis COTTON
    MATHER that has written all these things."
    The "Magnalia Christi Americana" (the title means "great works of Christ
    in America") is an immense history of New England, running to 850 closely
    printed folio pages in its first edition of 1702. Mather's subtitle reads
    "the Ecclesiastical History of New-England, from Its First Planting in the
    Year 1620. unto the Year of our LORD, 1698," but he was in no way limiting
    it by its title to a mere aspect of New England history. Other histories of
    New England had been written. Governor William Bradford, for example, had
    written "Of Plymouth Plantation," an extensive and often eloquent history
    of the Pilgrims. Mather consulted Bradford's unpublished manuscript and
    followed it closely. But none of the earlier histories was as ambitious in
    scope as the "Magnalia." It quickly superseded all other records as a source
    of information about New England, and even those who criticized or ridiculed
    Mather borrowed from him and accepted his view of evnts as the standard
    Puritan view.
    Benjamin Franklin cites the "Magnalia" in the early pages of his
    "Autobiography" for Mather's characterization of his grandfather. Mather
    himself quoted the English dissenting minister Vincent Alsop, who had said
    of it that his colleagues should read the whole thing through twice, as
    he had done. In a half-mocking but appreciative mention of Mather in 1869,
    Harriet Beecher Stowe pointed to the work's centrality to New England's
    historical self-awareness. And Nathaniel Hawthorne paid Mather's literary
    imagination a mixed but genuine compliment in describing the "Magnalia" as
    a "strange, pedantic history, in which true events and real personages move
    before the reader with the dreamy aspect which they wore in Cotton Mather's
    singular mind."
    The work as a whole was divided into seven books (the number seven had, of
    course, numerous biblical significances). The first book, "Antiquities."
    describes the earliest conceptions of the New World and the first process of
    settling. The second book is devoted to the biographies of the governors of
    New England, starting with William Bradford and John Winthrop and continuing
    to Mather's own time; he added the already published "Life of Phips" as an
    appendix to that book. In the third book Mather provides biographies of
    sixty of the founding ministers of New England. Harvard College and its most
    significant graduates are the subject of the fourth book. (Writing before
    Yale, the second college, had been founded, Mather could see this as a full
    account of advanced education in New England.) The fifth book records the
    church platforms and assorted statements of principle that assemblies of the
    American Puritans had arrived at, going back to the Cambridge Platform of 1648
    in which Richard Mather had been instrumental. The sixth book is a loosely
    organized collection of strange and marvelous occurrences that manifested the
    presence of God's will in New England. And the seventh book presents a record
    of the conflicts that the church in New England had gone through-with Roger
    Williams, Ann Hutchinson and the Antinomians, the Quakers, the Indians in King
    Philip's War, and the war with the French and Indians that had been going on
    since 1688. The structure of the entire work is loose and flexible; individual
    sections could be filled out by pieces that Mather had already published
    seperately. His biography of his younger brother Nathaniel and a sermon on
    Boston city improvement, for example, are included in the "Magnalia."
    The inclusion of such material has been used as evidence that the work as a
    whole is merely an anomalous omnium-gatherum that lacks any coherent structure
    or sense of movement. But Mather felt strongly that his method of organization
    permitted him greater scope. When Daniel Neil's history of New England, with
    a more conventional organization, appeared seventeen years later, Mather
    complained that its chronological sequence had made it merely "a dry
    political story."
    Mather understood that a chronological order would lead to a necessary
    emphasis on specific events, and the real history of New England that he
    wished to chronicle had involved much more. When he writes the life of John
    Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, in the second book, his title
    is "Nehemias Americanus," the American Nehemiah. The crucial fact that Mather
    wants to convey is not that Winthrop was a patient and adroit leader of the
    young colony but that he realized in America the biblical role of Nehemiah,
    the just governor who builds the walls of Jerusalem. Winthrop's actions and
    personal qualities are implied by his relation to the Bible; "Nehemias
    Americanus" is the most inclusive description that can be made of him.
    Much of the "Magnalia" is biography. In relying on biography to convey the
    growth of the American church-state, Mather was imitating the precedent of
    John Foxe's "Acts and Monuments of These Latter and Perillous Dayes" (1559),
    best known as Foxe's "Book of Martyrs." (That work, probably the most likely
    book after the Bible to be owned by an English-speaking Protestant, describes
    the growth of the English Reformation as a story of individual martyrs,
    especially under Queen Mary.) For Foxe, and in a somewhat different way for
    Mather, the divinely inspired character of the national church can best be
    dramatized by seeing the lives and deaths of its saints.
    As a biographer Mather was careful about searching out facts. He does
    include material critical of his subjects, always including the attacks made
    against them in their own lives. He says of John Cotton, for example, that
    he was perhaps too self-denying and forbearing. There is even humor in many
    biographies, although characteristically it takes the form of illustrating
    his subjects' good natures. The names of these ministers and governors are
    the occasion for continual puns: Samuel Stone is "a precious jem," "a Load-
    Stone"; Ralph Partridge had the innocence of a dove and the loftiness of an
    eagle and at last "took Wing to become a Bird of Paradise." Names were not
    irrelevent to Mather, whose urge was always to find meaning everywhere.
    Overall, despite the individual characterizing touches, the impression that
    these biographies leave is not one of diversity. For one thing, there is no
    clear sense of difference between them and Mather; there is no acknowledgment
    that aspects of their lives have been uncommunicated and are not fully known
    and understood. There is no genuine order of priority among them. Each in
    turn is remarkable for goodness, but no one stands out above the others.
    In the third book Mather includes a set of four longer biographies entitled
    "Johannes in Eremo" (John in the Wilderness) as well as "The Triumphs of the
    Reformed Religion in America," a longer biography of John Eliot, the apostle
    to the Indians. These are out of proportion with the other lives of ministers
    because they had already been published seperately. The other ministers
    treated in this book are organized in the order of importance or merit. It
    would be hard to say, on the basis of the "Magnalia" alone, which figures
    had been central in the making of New England. The subjects blur together
    as one reads.
    A main motivation for writing "Magnalia" was to vindicate New England's
    existence. In the first chapter of the first book Mather alludes to a
    pronouncement of Pope Zacharias in the eighth century that it was heresy
    to believe in the existence of unsuspected and uninhabited lands in the
    antipodes of Europe. The Church of Rome, says Mather, is not only the enemy
    of Protestantism; it has denied the existence of America. Even Saint
    Augustine denied that human beings lived anywhere besides Europe, Asia, and
    Africa. The American continents had been concealed by God until the right
    moment in history, Mather observes-until the Renaissance and the Reformation
    revived true learning and true religion. America has a special place in
    biblical prophacy, according to him; in the last days before the end of
    the world, the four corners of the earth will acknowledge Christ. America's
    place in prophecy explains its importance in history.
    All historians have been restive with Mather's treatment of his material,
    but he was not really writing history. Though Mather seems to have been
    careful in his use of materials and energetic in seeking information, the
    "Magnalia" in essence is really an exposition of the ways in which New
    England's history fits a biblical pattern. The history in the Old Testament
    of the Jews, who had escaped from Egypt and then later from captivity in
    Babylon to settle in the land that the Lord had given them, was for Mather
    a systematic prefiguration of the story of God's people in New England. The
    resemblances were not fortuitous but inevitable. Bradford had been the
    American Moses, leading his people into an American wilderness. John Eliot,
    the Puritan missionary to the Indians who translated the Bible into
    Algonquin, is compared to Enoch and Aaron. The number of references to the
    Hebrew patriarchs, church fathers, and leaders of thr Reformation can seem
    baffling unless the reader recognizes that they are central to the work's
    interpretive scheme.
    Mather's narrative procedure is based on a method of biblical interpretation
    called typology. According to typology the events and personages of the Old
    Testament are meant to be seen as a systematic foreshadowing of the life of
    Christ, who is the great antitype (the figure whom those types describe).
    Typology is thus a mode of symbolic interpretation, but the symbolic
    relationships are not subject to varying interpretation. Meaning is fixed
    and intrinsic; it is the work of God. Just as the Hebrews had come out of
    Egypt through the Red Sea, Christ was baptized in water by John before he
    began his ministry. As Moses had given laws or David had led the people of
    God, Christ was lawgiver and king. In all ways Christ was greater than the
    types of him, but the types serve to explain more fully the significance
    of his life. From the beginning the American Puritans had described their
    collective experience in terms of such biblical parallels. Mather's "Magnalia"
    realizes that rhetoric in literature, laboriously dramatizing the parallels
    between Israel and New England until at last his reader can no longer see
    the uniqueness of events or personalities. New England's history becomes,
    in Mather's hands, a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
    One inherent danger for a Christian in describing New England as a new
    Israel is that the prophecies describe doom as well as promise. Israel
    broke its covenant with the Lord. Mather cannot affirm the past without
    warning about the present, and yet his own impulse to celebrate the goodness
    of New England would not permit him to see episodes such as the antinomian
    controversy as anything but a momentary interruption in the colony's
    development. There had been change since the first generation, but change
    had to mean progress, ultimately considered, since every change brings
    the millennium closer. The date of that great event was already set, and
    Mather tried hard to guess it. At one point he had speculated on 1697; he
    later predicted that Roman Catholicism might collapse on schedule in 1716.
    His thoughts in his later years turned increasingly toward describing
    an apocalyptic future that would vindicate his persistence in the New
    England way. In this light he read the conflicting signs of the present.
    The "Magnalia" insists on classical parallels along with biblical
    parallels for New England's history. Winthrop is like Lycurgus of Sparta
    or Numa Pompilius of early Rome, lawgivers to their peoples. But Winthrop
    is also superior to the figures of the classical past, through his peculiar
    qualities of Christian self-restraint. "In fine, the Victories of an
    Alexander, an Hannibal, or a Caesar over other Men, were so Glorious, as
    the Victories of this great Man over himself, which also at last prov'd
    Victories over other Men." It was traditional to combine classical and
    biblical antecedents, especially in the most ambitious work: Dante Alighieri
    and John Milton, for example, systematically blend these two great sources
    of knowledge.
    The "Magnalia" is full of echoes and references to Milton and Virgil.
    It might be best, in fact, to consider the work as designed to be an epic.
    Naturally the epic writer seeks not only to record but also to transform his
    material. Mather's epic intentions declare themselves from the first sentence
    of the great introduction. His real subject is not so much facts as wonders.
    "I WRITE the Wonders of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION, flying from the Depravations
    (depraved conditions) of Europe, to the American Strand." The epic qualities
    of the work explain in part Mather's style, which has been much discussed and
    not ofter appreciated. Mather's sentences are long and frequently filled with
    quoatations in Latin and Greek. Mather could not really resist such flourishes
    in a work so grandly conceived. Such choice flowers, he admitted, were "almost
    unavoidably putting themselves into the Authors Hand." Yet he also described
    his as "a Simple, Submiss, Humble Style."
    The contradictions in Mather's own descriptions of his style suggest that he
    was trying to do many things at the same time. His sentences labor to combine
    lament and encomium, history and prophecy, decline and promise, humility and
    exultation. "I am sure New-England has a True Church to People it," he could
    write in book 7, and further on in the same paragraph, "it must after all be
    confessed, that we have one Enemy more pernicious to us all than the rest, and
    that is our own Backsliding Heart, which has plunged the whole Country into so
    wonderful a Degeneracy, that I have sometimes been Discouraged from Writing
    the Church-History of the Country..."
    The discrepancies in the record do not vex Mather much. For him they are a
    proof that Christ's great works in America cannot be wholly fathomable. Sir
    Henry Vane, briefly a governor of Massachusetts and an adversary of Winthrop,
    is a puzzling figure for Mather. Without further effort at interpretation he
    quotes a contemporary criticism of Vane's term as governor and a description
    of Vane's heroic death.
    When Mather describes the witchcraft episode in Salem, he remarks on the
    confessions of witchcraft that were retracted after the episode was over.
    "And though more than twice Twenty had made such voluntary...Confessions,
    that if they were all Sham, there was therein the greatest Violation made
    by the Efficacy of the "Invisible World," upon the Rules of Understanding
    Humane Affairs, that was ever since God made Man upon the Earth, yet they
    did so recede from their Confessions, that it was very clear, some of them
    had been hitherto, in a sort of a Preternatural Dream, wherein they had
    said of them selves, they knew not what themselves." Both confessions and
    retractions were wonderful. At a time when such a capacity for wonderment
    was increasingly identified as superstition and credulity, Mather clung tothe capacity, because he believed such wonders were the material of all
    contact between God and man.
    Cotton Mather is particularly associated with the witchcraft trials in
    Salem in 1692. For in the midst of the public furvor, he wrote a small book
    entitled "The Wonders of the Invisible World," which defends the witchcraft
    trials and tries to show them to be a fitting stage in New England's history.
    All those who have been disposed to see him as rediculous, credulous, and
    ultimately a menace to civilization have seized on this work as proof. Those
    who have disliked the Puritans anyway have been happy to agree. Those who
    have respected the Puritan contribution have often contemptuously dismissed
    the book and its author. It is certain that "The Wonders of the Invisible
    World" was disastrous for Mather's reputation both in his own time and
    afterward.
    The episode at Salem has taken on a mythic significance that far exceeds
    its historical importance at the time. There were scarcely any measurable
    political, economic, or social consequences of the event for the colony at
    large. Yet everyone with even a smattering of knowledge of colonial American
    history has heard of the Salem witchcraft trials. And the meaning of the
    events there is supposedly also common knowledge. For one thing, it is
    thought, the whole occurrence was a public turmoil stirred up by Puritan
    ministers, who skillfully worked their gullible congregations into a frenzy
    as a means of exercising control. According to this view, Cotton Mather had
    the foremost responsibility for stirring up the community. There was no
    witchcraft being practiced at Salem, the popular version goes-nothing but
    a few hysterical and manipulative adolescent girls. Many people assume that
    the American Puritans were unusual in believing in witchcraft and that such
    a belief is a sure sign of a twisted mind. So Mather's firm belief in the
    existence of witches can best be explained by dissecting his lamentable
    psychological state.
    This version of the events at Salem is an almost unrecognizable distortion
    of the facts. That the myth should persist so long, despite the careful
    efforts of historians and literary scholars, suggests that the myth is
    an important cultural phenomenon in its own right. The Salem witchcraft
    episode is a tragedy that has been turned into a morality tale, complete
    with all the forces of good and evil. The Puritans themselves, who had
    little taste for tragedy but a vast appetite for stories of good and evil,would not have agreed with the mythic version, but they would understand
    its form.
    Witchcraft was in fact practiced in Salem, though probably not much
    more than a few spells were cast to predict the future. Virtually everyone
    involved -accusers, accused, and the general public-believed in the
    existence of witches and witchcraft before anything ever happened. The Bible
    acknowledged and condemned the existence of witchcraft; so did many learned
    men of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
  • Birth: 12 FEB 1663 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA 1
  • Death: 13 FEB 1728 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA 1
  • Title: Rev., Dr.



    Father: Increase MATHER b: 21 JUN 1639 in Dorchester, Suffolk Co., MA
    Mother: Maria COTTON b: 15 FEB 1642 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA

    Marriage 1 Abigail PHILLIPS b: 19 JUN 1670 in Charlestown, Suffolk Co., MA
    • Married: 4 MAY 1686 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA 1
    Children
    1. Has No Children Abigail MATHER b: 22 AUG 1687 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    2. Has No Children Catherine MATHER b: 1 SEP 1689 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    3. Has No Children Maria MATHER b: 1691 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    4. Has No Children Joseph MATHER b: 28 MAR 1693 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    5. Has Children Abigail MATHER b: 14 JUN 1694 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    6. Has No Children Mehitable MATHER b: 1695 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    7. Has No Children Hannah MATHER b: 1696 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    8. Has Children Increase MATHER b: 9 JUL 1699 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    9. Has No Children Samuel MATHER b: 1700 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA

    Marriage 2 Elizabeth CLARK b: FEB 1674 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    • Married: 18 AUG 1703 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA 1
    Children
    1. Has No Children Elizabeth MATHER b: 13 JUL 1704 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    2. Has Children Samuel MATHER b: 30 OCT 1706 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    3. Has No Children Nathaniel MATHER b: 16 MAY 1707 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    4. Has No Children Jerusha MATHER b: APR 1711 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    5. Has No Children Eleazer MATHER b: 30 OCT 1713 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    6. Has No Children Martha MATHER b: 30 OCT 1713 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA

    Marriage 3 Lydia LEE b: ABT 1694 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA
    • Married: 5 JUL 1715 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA 1

    Sources:
    1. Abbrev: Web: The New England Mathers with a special emphasis on the many families who married into our famil
      Title: Michael, Web: The New England Mathers with a special emphasis on the many families who married into our family (Name: Name: Name: Entries: 87,783 Updated: 15 Nov 2007;;;)
      Note:
      Source Medium: Electronic
      Repository:
        Name: world connect db=mikemather
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